On Zakynthos cruises, you’ll experience a captivating island surrounded by calm, impossibly blue waters that sparkle in the sun and craggy limestone cliffs that rise behind white sand beaches. This island in the south Ionian Sea is also known by its Italian name, Zante. The Venetians, who were enraptured by the island when they ruled here for many years, also coined it Fiore di Levante or “flower of the East wind”.
It’s easy to be enraptured with the beaches on Zakynthos, so give in and spend some time relaxing on any one of a dozen breathtaking spots, swimming in cool clear water, or snorkeling at the best sites. You’ll be equally enthralled with a meal of fresh-caught seafood, simply prepared with local organic ingredients, including local olive oil, offered in many casual seaside eateries.
Askos Stone Park is a fun place to spend time outdoors while learning about the flora and fauna of Zakynthos. Whether you’re an animal lover or traveling with a family, you’ll enjoy feeding the animals and learning about them from knowledgeable guides.
Catch a boat ride through a succession of blue-water caves on the northwest coast of the island while stopped here on your Zante cruise. These geological outcroppings have formed into caves through years of water erosion. Most of the caves are only accessible by boat, and some offer swimming and snorkeling opportunities.
The Skinari Lighthouse, located at the very northern tip of Zakynthos, was built in 1897. The picturesque tower offers Instagrammable views of boats sailing along the Ionian Sea and of the neighboring island of Kefalonia to the north.
On Zakynthos cruises, you’ll find yourself naturally drawn to the wide, white-sand beaches and the emerald water that laps at the shore. Swim and bask in the sun on Navagio, the most famous beach located on the east side of the island, or go for a more secluded southwest beach like Keri Lake, which is surrounded by lush greenery.
Stroll through Zante Town and admire its charming squares and streets lined with bakeries, cafes, and boutiques. Walk up to the village of Bochali to see a ruined Venetian Castle set in a pine tree-studded park.
Jump from the past to the present as you hear the history of olive oil, witness ancient olive press methods, and see how the process is conducted today. During your tour, you’ll taste succulent local olives and find olive oil products to take home.
Fresh seafood prepared simply with local olive oil, oregano, and a generous squeeze of lemon is among the top choices for meals eaten by the seaside on Zakynthos cruises. Small, family-owned tavernas are your best bet for enjoying the local cuisine, with dishes like stifado, a traditional simmered stew of beef, tomatoes, onions, a touch of cinnamon, and stuffed eggplant. Local organic foods, like olives, olive oil, honey, cheese, herbs, and vegetables, are used extensively. If you enjoy wine, be sure to savor the local varieties, as most are never exported.
Zakynthos was the son of Dardanus, King of Troy, and the grandson of Zeus and Helectra, according to Homer. The island has had multiple foreign occupations, among them the Venetians, who were thoroughly enchanted with the island. On a Zante cruise, the island’s alternate Italian name, you’ll also see the influences of Byzantine and Ottoman cultures. Zakynthos, along with the other Ionian Islands, became part of the Greek state in 1864. In August 1953, Zakynthos was devastated by an earthquake, and only three buildings remained standing. Today, the island is a popular summer resort.
Your ship docks at the port of Zakynthos, and you’ll be tendered to the dock in town. When you disembark, you can easily walk to the center of town..
Zakynthos cruise ships dock at the port of Zakynthos. You can walk to the town from the cruise terminal. Taxis are plentiful, and many drivers speak English. There is also a car rental agency at the port.
On the island, you’ll find artisan shops selling handcrafted jewelry, leather goods, pottery, and tablecloths. Honey, spices, and olive oil are popular souvenirs to bring home while on Zakynthos cruises. Shops are generally open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The euro (€) is the official currency in Zakynthos. Many places accept credit cards, but it is good to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases. The two major banks in Zakynthos have ATMs at multiple locations throughout the city. Tipping is not generally expected, though it is appreciated. At restaurants and for taxis, tip 5% to 10%. Restaurants may round up the bill, so check before you decide on a tip. A service charge is added for the price of bread and water in restaurants.